Magic: The Gathering players are getting a special preview of the next upcoming set this weekend in the game’s tried-and-true pre-release event. Theros: Beyond Death will be playable for the first time in stores starting on Friday.
Pre-releases are casual tournaments geared toward introducing new players to the game while providing a unique challenge to Magic grinders. Here’s everything you need to know to crush the THB pre-release.
What is pre-release weekend?
Pre-release events are a series of tournaments held in card stores throughout the world where Magic players get to compete in Sealed-format events using new cards. Playing in pre-release events often comes with other benefits, including Magic Arena codes, special foil-stamped cards, and opportunities to purchase set boxes.
Sealed events usually last three to four hours and involve players making a 40-card deck out of six 15-card booster packs. Then, they compete in a round-robin tournament, being matched against players with the same record. Stores usually award prizes—often an additional pack from the new set for each win—and some even give out other rewards, like new playmats and card sleeves.
For Theros: Beyond Death, pre-release kits come with the following:
- Six Theros: Beyond Death booster packs (15 cards each).
- A random stamped rare or mythic rare card from the set.
- A “spindown” dice to use as a life tracker (the numbers are in order form 20 to one).
How to build a Sealed deck
With your six packs (and bonus rare/mythic) in hand, your goal is to make the best 40-card deck possible. For a detailed walkthrough of the Sealed deckbuilding process, you can check out this guide by Wizards. Here’s what your deck should look like:
- Seventeen lands—a mixture of basics and any other useful lands from your card pool.
- Around 15 creatures with a consistent curve of mana costs (see the graphic below).
- Around eight other spells that either interrupt your opponent’s gameplan (removal or discard) or bolster your own (card draw, combat tricks, etc.).
In terms of what kind of deck you should build, take a close look at the overall draft archetypes and any multicolored cards in your pool that can support these archetypes. These are some of the most powerful cards in the set.
Here’s a quick rundown of the archetypes:
- White-Blue: Tempo
- Blue-Black: Mill Yourself
- Black-Red: Sacrifice
- Red-Green: Power 4 or Greater (“Ferocious”)
- Green-White: Auras
- White-Black: Reanimator
- Blue-Red: Draw Go
- Black-Green: Escape
- White-Red: Go Wide (“Heroic”)
- Blue-Green: Constellation
Of course, you’ll also want to make sure you have enough good commons and uncommons to support that archetype before going all in.
Understanding the mechanics is also an important part of playing in the pre-release. For THB, the mechanics are:
- Constellation: Constellation triggers each time an enchantment you control enters the battlefield. Tied with Bant colors in this set, Constellation can do things like give you life, counters, and even cards.
- Escape: Escape lets you cast spells from the graveyard with a different cost, including making you exile other cards from the graveyard. If you have escape cards, you want to put cards in your graveyard.
- Devotion: To calculate your devotion, simply add up the number of that colored mana symbols on permanents you control. Devotion rewards mono-colored decks and can have powerful effects, even awakening the set’s Gods.
- Sagas: Sagas are a special kind of enchantment with a series of activated abilities. Each turn, you put a new counter on them. When a new counter lands on them, you activate the ability that’s referenced by that number of counters.
Tips and tricks
Do you want to make your pre-release weekend even better? Here are some pro tips to get through the event without skipping a beat.
- Bring a snack and something to drink. Pre-release events typically run three rounds and three to four hours long. Most shops sell food and drinks, but it’s always cheaper and healthier to pack your own.
- Bring sleeves and other dice to use as counters. This will make playing the game easier. Sleeves help with shuffling, and tracking +1/+1 counters and planeswalker loyalty is a pain without a physical reminder.
- Look out for alternate art card variants. Theros: Beyond Death features a number of art variants that will be hot collector’s items. To begin, each booster will have “Nyx”-style full-art lands. There are also “Constellation” variants for the set’s Gods and Demi-Gods, along with borderless versions of each planeswalker.
- Sealed games tend to go longer than draft. Board stalls are more frequent and the power level of cards tends to be a little higher. Plan accordingly by leaning slightly higher toward evasive creatures (such as those with flying) and potentially choosing to draw a card first rather than play first.
- Check out other play opportunities. Some stores offer “Two-Headed Giant”-style tournaments where players make two-player teams and compete against each other. There’s also something called “Open Dueling,” which allows players with less time to play against each other using 60-card Planeswalker decks. Ask your local store for details.